Excerpts from a short IOM report released on 6 January 2015 on the recent use of cargo ships, specifically the Blue Sky M and the Ezadeen, to transport Syrians towards Italy:
“IOM analysts do believe the prospect of single-nationality cargoes – on these latest voyages, migrants fleeing Syria – creates opportunities for smuggling rings to employ certain economies of scale that were not apparent in the more ‘mixed’ passenger manifests seen leaving Egypt and Libya in 2014.”
“‘The predictability of thousands now fleeing Syria every month allows smugglers to plan for a reliable stream of customers, which of course allows them to set a price point,’ explained Joel Millman, a spokesperson for IOM in Geneva. ‘So they can predict how much revenue each trip will bring, and then quickly deploy vessels and crews’. Millman added that Lebanon’s recent decision to require visas of Syrian migrants seeking to enter Lebanon may divert new migrant traffic to Turkey’s coasts, which will swell demand for smugglers’ services.”
“In the last four months of 2014 IOM learned of larger ‘mother’ ships waiting in open water to receive passengers ferried out by smugglers. Larger ships leaving Turkey loaded with migrants from Syria began appearing in greater numbers late last year in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
“Maritime experts calculate that such ships normally would be available for between USD 100,000 and USD 150,000, allowing smugglers to earn upwards of USD 3 million for voyages like the two that ended in recent days, with up to 900 migrants crammed on board.”
“‘This new route is a direct consequence of the Syrian crisis,’ added IOM’s [Federico] Soda. ‘Despite the end of the Mare Nostrum’s rescue-at-sea operations, arrivals continue because of the many crises close to Europe.’”
Click here for report.
A new Chatham House Briefing Paper by Dr Khalid Koser entitled “Responding to Migration from Complex Humanitarian Emergencies: Lessons Learned from Libya” has been released.
- At its peak during the Libyan conflict, migration to Tunisia and Egypt was massive, even in the context of a region where large-scale migration has become the norm.
- In the case of Libya, at least five categories of migration can be distinguished: evacuating migrant workers, Libyan nationals moving into Egypt and Tunisia, ‘boat people’ arriving in the EU, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and asylum-seekers and refugees.
- The international policy response in Libya was hampered by restricted access. IDPs therefore received limited assistance and protection, and migrant workers, especially from sub-Saharan Africa, experienced harassment and abuse.
- The policy response in neighbouring states, especially Egypt and Tunisia, was far more robust.
- The political response in the EU to the relatively small proportion of migrants who reached Europe is considered by many commentators to have been disproportionate.
- The crisis has highlighted a gap in the international regime for protecting IDPs, and in particular migrant workers. It has also called into question the relevance to modern humanitarian crises of a dated refugee definition. More positively, the response has demonstrated how international agencies can cooperate, and there has been unprecedented cooperation between IOM and UNHCR to respond to ‘mixed flows’ from Libya.
- Responsibility for managing migration now falls to the new government in Libya.
Click here for paper.
From an IOM press statement:
“IOM is taking part in a three-day meeting organized by UNHCR and the Government of Djibouti on how best to respond to the needs of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees who find themselves in situations of distress at sea. The meeting, which opens today [8 November] in Djibouti, brings together government representatives and academics alongside experts from UNHCR, IOM, the International Maritime Organization, the ICRC and IFRC….
‘Despite the tightening of existing Conventions to reinforce the global Search and Rescue regime, gaps remain when it comes to putting these principles into practice,’ says IOM’s Irena Vojackova-Sollorano. ‘Cooperative approaches that bring together governments, the shipping industry, NGOs and international organizations are therefore urgently needed if we are to ensure the safety and protection of all people rescued at sea.’…”
Click here for full press statement.
From Refugees International, 7 October: “More than 600 migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are effectively stranded at a port just outside the Libyan capital, and have been left to fend for themselves by Libyan authorities. Despite repeated attacks, harassment, and arbitrary arrests by Libyan gangs over the course of four months, they have received no protection from the National Transitional Council (NTC). Refugees International calls on the NTC and all local authorities – including the civilian councils in Janzour and Tripoli, and the Tripoli Military Council – to intervene immediately to protect the population at Sidi Bilal port and ensure their safe relocation to a temporary site. ‘The men in these camps are routinely harassed and accused of being pro-Gaddafi mercenaries, the women are targets of sexual abuse. All face intimidation by armed Libyan thugs who drive into the port at night firing guns into the air,’ said Matt Pennington, an advocate for Refugees International currently in Libya. ‘Of course, many migrants told us they don’t really want to leave Libya – since they have nothing to return to in their home countries. But even for those who want to stay in Libya, their situation is becoming intolerable.’ … So far, the UN World Food Programme has delivered one food drop to the imperilled migrants, while the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration have been attempting to negotiate safe relocation for those who want to stay and repatriation for those who want to return home. But what the population of Sidi Bilal most urgently needs is protection, and Libyan and UN authorities must act swiftly to provide it.”
Click here for full statement.
UNHCR, IOM, and Save the Children issued a joint statement expressing concern that Italy’s decision to declare Lampedusa an unsafe port which can no longer receive persons rescued at sea risks “undermin[ing] the entire rescue at sea system for migrants and asylum seekers and at the same time could make rescue operations much more hazardous and complex.”
“Since it is no longer possible to dock in Lampedusa, the ability of the Coast Guard and the “Guardia di Finanza” to carry out rescue at sea will be compromised by the distance they will have to travel to reach the next safe port, e.g Porto Empedocle, 120 nautical miles away. This would have severe implications on rescue operations when the weather is bad, or when it involves transporting people in need of urgent medical assistance, minors and other vulnerable individuals.
Therefore, the partner organizations of the Praesidium Project hope that the Lampedusa centre will be re-established as soon as possible to ensure adequate reception and swift transit for migrants who should be hosted in the centre only for a minimum period of time to allow for assistance and identification before being transferred to appropriate facilities elsewhere in Italy.
Whilst the three partner organizations understand the pressure the island has been under in recent times and the limited capacity of the reception and rescue centre, it is important that Lampedusa remains a safe harbour in order to save lives. …”
Click here (EN) or here (IT) for joint statement.
Italy and IOM signed an agreement last week pursuant to which IOM will facilitate the voluntary returns of up to 600 migrants from Italy. The agreement will be in place until the end of 2011. The agreement is focused on assisting with the returns of migrants who have recently arrived in Italy from North Africa to their various countries of origin.
Click here for IOM statement on the programme. (IT).
Click here for statement from the Dipartimento della Protezione Civile. (IT).
Click here for article. (IT).
UNHCR said Friday that reports are emerging from Tripoli that “people being targeted because of their colour as the city fell to rebel forces”; UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres called for sub-Saharan Africans to be protected. “The High Commissioner has urged restraint from rebel forces and Libyan civilians. ‘We have seen at earlier stages in this crisis that such people, Africans especially, can be particularly vulnerable to hostility or acts of vengeance,’ he said. ‘It is crucial that humanitarian law prevails through these climactic moments and that foreigners – including refugees and migrant workers – are being fully and properly protected from harm,’ he stressed.”
IOM has chartered ships in order to evacuate migrants from Tripoli to Benghazi. According to IOM, 263 people were evacuated from Tripoli on Thursday night. “Among those evacuated were Egyptians, Lebanese, Algerians, Filipinos, Americans, Swiss, Lebanese, Italians, Indians, Sudanese, a German, a Canadian and an Iraqi.” A second IOM-chartered ship, probably the Fehim Bay (which according to MarineTraffic.com is currently a Moldovan flagged ship), was scheduled to evacuate a larger group of migrants on Saturday. According to AIS tracking information, the ship as of Sunday morning is en route to Benghazi. IOM reported that “the second evacuation operation will aim to assist groups of Bangladeshi, Chinese, Filipino, Indian and Egyptian migrants.”
From IOM statements: “IOM staff in Tripoli say that getting migrants scattered across [Tripoli] to the port is the single most challenging issue of the operation. Continued fighting in parts of the city, the many checkpoints and sniper fire represent the main obstacles to movement within the city as well as lack of fuel. ‘Movement is extremely slow as well as dangerous. Crossing checkpoints manned by different groups with different demands is very challenging,’ says IOM Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Pasquale Lupoli. ‘And then there are snipers.’ Although IOM managed to get the 263 migrants to the port through arrangements with some concerned embassies and other parties, the Organization remains deeply concerned that migrants who want and need evacuation assistance may not be able to get it because they cannot get to the port. Some, such as Sub-Saharan Africans, are largely on the outskirts of Tripoli and far from the port vicinity.”
Click here for UNHCR press statement.
Click here and here for IOM press statements.